TMF Divisional Round: Best Weekend Of Football…Ever? Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen Duel Out In One For The Ages.
Are you entertained yet? What a weekend of football. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen duel out in one for the ages. After another disappointing postseason loss, what’s the future look like in Green Bay?
Holy S@$!, what a weekend of football. Best weekend of football in the past decade? Ever? I wouldn’t argue it either way. Candidly, it’s quite difficult to shape thoughts into words as I sit here writing this on a frigid Sunday night here in New England.
The divisional weekend of the NFL playoffs is commonly viewed as the most exciting weekend of football all year. This weekend may have been the best ever. For the first time since 2010, two No. 1 seeds were knocked out in the divisional round. Oh, and every team that won did it in walk-off fashion. That’s correct, all four:
Bengals kicker Evan McPherson drilled a game-winning 52-yard field goal to give No. 4 Cincinnati a 19-16 win over the No. 1 seeded Tennessee Titans.
49ers kicker Robbie Gould hit a game-winning 45-yard field goal to give No. 6 seed San Francisco a 13-10 win over the No. 1 seeded Green Bay Packers.
Rams kicker Matt Gay hit a game-winning 30-yard field goal to help the Los Angeles Rams defeat the defending champs in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In what was the wildest game I can remember watching, Patrick Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce on an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Kansas City an electrifying overtime win over Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
Where do we start? Hm, of course. Let’s run through what was arguably the best football game of the past decade.
It’s no longer up for debate, folks. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are the present and future of the National Football League. Number one and number two, hands down.
Here’s my absolutely not an overreaction updated NFL QB Rankings:
Thanks to the exceptional showings from both Mahomes and Allen, Sunday night’s 42-36 overtime victory for Kansas City was one for the ages. One for the history books. One we’ll remember every year when the NFL postseason rolls around. And undoubtedly, one we’ll talk about every single time these two quarterbacks meet in the future.
There’s a whole lot to cover from one of the greatest football weekends I can remember. In this week’s column, we’ll discuss:
One for the ages, in Kansas City. The Chiefs and Bills scored a combined 25 points in the final two minutes; the second-most in any game in the Super Bowl era. There was not one, not two, not three, but four lead changes in the final two minutes of the 42-36 overtime win. Insane. Mahomes and Allen combined for a silly stat line of 50-for-81 for 707 yards, 7 touchdowns with no interceptions. Forget the stats though. This one will live on in our minds for a long time.
What’s the future look like in Green Bay? Aaron Rodgers has a decision to make. And unless the Packers front office make several bold moves, a new team could make some sense for Rodgers, if he indeed wants to play next season.
Did we watch Tom Brady play his final football game on Sunday? For selfish reasons, I sure hope not.
Things I like, don’t like: A few things I like and don’t like around the NFL.
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THE FRONT: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen duel out one for the ages
I still can’t get over that game. Even if you rewind and rewatch the final few minutes a dozen times, you still won’t believe what your eyes are watching. Remarkable is an understatement. I’d pay to watch Patrick Mahomes duel it out with Josh Allen every postseason and twice on Sunday’s.
The worst word in sports: Almost.
Buffalo almost had it.
With 8:55 remaining on the clock, the Bills pieced together a dazzling 17-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with a fourth-and-13 play. Kansas City had the lead, 26-21. But on that fourth-and-13, Josh Allen emerged with a clutch 27-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis.
That touchdown pass followed up with a two-point conversion to Stefon Diggs had the Bills up by three, 29-26.
With 1:54 on the clock, here comes Patrick Mahomes. Buffalo undoubtably gave Mahomes the ball with too much time on the clock, right?
The Chiefs needed just five plays with only two of the five being completed. Mahomes found Travis Kelce for 11-yards on a third-and-10. Two plays later, Mahomes would connect with Tyreek Hill down the middle near the 50-yard line. Hill took it to the house for the score. Apparently he’s pretty fast.
"You got so many playmakers all over the field, that's why you never panic. On defense, on offense and on special teams,"
Hill told James Palmer of NFL Network after the game.
"And plus, you got one of the greatest coaches of all time in Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy. That combo is nasty. It's like Shaq and Kobe. It's crazy."
This very well could be the final postseason run for the ‘nasty’ combo of Reid and Bieniemy, as the Chiefs offensive coordinator should continue to gather interest from NFL teams with head coaching vacancies. We’ll worry about that later though.
Josh Allen, you’re up.
With 1:02 on the clock, Kansas City now leading 33-25. But wait, did the Chiefs give Allen the ball back with too much time on the clock? I need another beer but refuse to walk away from the television.
It took Allen and the Bills just six plays to drive 75-yards. Allen connected with Gabriel Davis on four of those plays, including the go-ahead 19-yard touchdown.
Yeah, I think we’re entertained.
Bills 36, Chiefs 33.
With 0:13 on the clock, the Bills are feeling good about their chances. Sure, the Chiefs had all of their three timeouts in hand. But the Bills just needed to squib the opening kickoff to burn more time off the clock. Hell, or even kick it anywhere outside of the end zone to force a return which would also burn crucial seconds away from Kansas City.
Buffalo did neither. Instead, Tyler Bass booted the kickoff into the end zone for a touchback, giving the ball to the Chiefs on their own 25-yard line with the full 13 seconds remaining on the clock. Critical mistake by Sean McDermott as Kansas City now had enough time to run more than one play to force their way into field goal range. Burning clock in that situation is far more important than field position, one would assume.
So here we are. With 13 seconds left and their season on the line. Once again, here comes Patrick Mahomes.
Andy Reid was asked after the game if he gave any advice to Mahomes when things were looking “grim” ahead of that season-defining drive. Reid’s response was perfect:
"When it’s grim, be the Grim Reaper. And go get it. He did that. He made everybody around him better, which he’s great at. He just does it effortlessly. When it gets tough, he’s gonna be there battling. Players appreciate that.”
Mahomes battled, that much is evident. The calm and cool demeanor he possesses in the biggest of moments is truly marvelous. Reminds me of the guy that played in New England all those years.
Mahomes found Hill for a 19-yard gain to Kansas City’s 44-yard line. Chiefs would call a timeout with 8 seconds remaining. Buffalo would then follow by calling a timeout of their own, assumingly to adjust the defensive personnel or play call. But it didn’t matter.
Mahomes connected with Kelce down the middle to Buffalo’s 31-yard line. A 25-yard gain that boosted the Chiefs into field goal range. Harrison Butker hits the 49-yarder with 0:00 showing on the clock, sending the game to overtime.
Chiefs 36, Bills 36.
Kansas City won the coin toss and of course, elected to receive to begin overtime. Mahomes promptly went to work, crafting a surgical drive in which he completed six of six passes along with two short running plays from Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
It only took the Chiefs eight plays to reach the end zone; punching their ticket to their fourth-straight AFC championship game.
On Buffalo’s 8-yard line, Mahomes found Kelce for the game winner. Chiefs 42, Bills 36. Final.
How fun was that? The only football game I can remember being on my feet for as long as I was watching this one was Super Bowl XLIX.
This one was an all-timer, an instant classic.
After another disappointing playoff loss, what’s next for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers?
Every Packers fan I know has vigorously griped about how awful Green Bay’s Special Teams play has been all season long. Certainly not the time to hand out any type of ‘Kudos’ for how right they are. But it’s the sad reality after Saturday night’s inexcusable 13-10 loss to San Francisco. The loss came down to one play on special teams – a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by the 49ers. That play resulted in the only touchdown San Francisco would score in the game.
In a game that saw your defense hold the opposing 49ers offense to just 6 points, this loss hurts. In a game that saw your defense allow just 212 total yards from the opposing 49ers offense, this loss really hurts.
Where does Green Bay go from here? In a lot of ways, this season was all about winning the Super Bowl. The Packers went all in last offseason; convincing Aaron Rodgers to return, trading for his old pal Randall Cobb, and then some.
The long list of offseason decisions the Packers must make are looming after yet another disappointing failed playoff run. With the unknowns around what the roster might look like next season, Rodgers was asked after the game if he still thought a Super Bowl was achievable for him in Green Bay. His response was obscure, aside from one important takeaway: Aaron Rodgers isn’t interested in sticking around through a massive roster rebuild.
“I don’t know. That’s a fair question,” Rodgers said of the possibility of still being able to win a Super Bowl in Green Bay.
“Definitely one I’ve thought about. But there are a lot of decisions to be made.” Rodgers continued. “I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing. So, a lot of decisions in the next couple of months.”
Matt LaFleur spoke after the game and stated that he wants Rodgers back next season. Of course, the front office still has to weigh in given the way this season ended, as well as the salary cap implications the Packers front office must sort through. Rodgers indeed played at an elite level this season, most likely resulting in his second consecutive league MVP award. But there were also more than a few off the field issues that ascended throughout the season.
It started with his explanation of his vaccination status, and continued with statements made questioning the NFL’s Covid-19 protocols, followed by his most recent comments towards President Joe Biden in an ESPN piece by Kevin Van Valkenburg, over the weekend. Great piece by Kevin, by the way. Strongly recommend giving it a read if you haven’t already.
Safe to assume that even with some off the field stuff, the Packers front office would want Rodgers back in 2022 purely because he’s head and shoulders the best option available at the most important position in all of sports. But even if Green Bay manages to reconstruct a winning roster, will Rodgers be back as the Packers quarterback? Could he retire? End his career with another franchise like other quarterback’s Peyton Manning, Tom Brady have done in recent years?
“I didn’t think we’d be talking about this after this game,” Rodgers told reporters after Saturday’s loss.
“I’m going to take some time and have conversations with folks around here and then take some time away and make a decision, obviously before free agency or anything gets going on that front.”
The disappointment was evident when Rodgers spoke with reporters postgame.
“It’s fresh right now. It’s a little shocking for sure.” Rodgers said. “I was hoping to have a nice weekend for the NFC championship, to enjoy the lead-up and then start contemplating some things, so I haven’t even let the moment really sink in yet.”
The upcoming offseason in Green Bay looks to be a ‘beautiful mystery’ for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Is this it for Tom Brady?
If it is, it’s been a helluva career for a sixth-round draft pick. One that’s undoubtedly not up for debate.
Tom Brady almost accomplished the unthinkable yet again on Sunday afternoon. His Tampa Bay Bucs were mainly getting dominated by Matt Stafford and the LA Rams. Down 27-3, Brady did what he’s done throughout his historic career: he kept fighting.
Brady and the Bucs fought effortlessly all the way back to tie the game, 27-27. Atlanta Super Bowl déjà vu began to set it in. First 28-3, now 27-3…
But Tampa Bay’s defense couldn’t make a play when Brady and the team needed it most. So, Stafford and Cooper Kupp made the Bucs pay by driving down the field giving Matt Gay the range he needed to kick the game winning field goal as time expired.
Brady fought hard but deep down inside it’s fair to wonder if he knew his team was outmatched. Brady’s demeanor heading into the game felt different. His reactions on the sideline, with his teammates and coaches, felt different. Did Brady have a hunch that he’d be hit, sacked, and roughed up a lot due to his team’s mismanagement of key offensive players like Tristan Wirfs? Wouldn’t rule it out.
Brady had already cemented his legacy as the greatest quarterback the sport of football has ever seen. These past two seasons down in Tampa Bay was simply throwing a cherry on top. Brady wanted to enjoy his final years and of course, win at the highest of levels while doing it. If this is truly the end of Brady’s career, he’ll be sorely missed. The NFL simply won’t feel the same without him. AFC and NFC divisional and championship weekend won’t feel quite right without Tom Brady’s team robustly competing in them.
Brady will move on to other things once he’s done with football. His brand, TB12, will continue to grow across the country – and globe. Like Brady, the NFL will too, move on. Other future NFL greats like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen will dominate the league for years to come.
If that’s it for Tom Brady, we should all share the same sentiment to him: Thank you.
THINGS I LIKE, DON’T LIKE…
* I like Josh Allen. A lot. Of course, being on the wrong side of that game is not what Bills fans wanted. But the future is bright in Buffalo – have faith in that. Josh Allen could be the second-best quarterback in the league for the next 10 years. You should feel good about that, Buffalo.
** I don’t like Sean McDermott’s in game coaching decisions. Sure, going for it on fourth-down a bunch paid off against the high-flying Chiefs offense. He’s made several bold calls that I’ve liked throughout the season. But what was the thought process by kicking it off for a touchback on that final regulation possession? A squib quick would have certainly killed a few more seconds off the clock. I understand the fear of Mahomes presumably played a role in the decision. Puzzling decision, nonetheless.
*** I like Cooper Kupp’s heroics in the Rams last-second win. Kupp knew he made a mistake fumbling the ball earlier in the game. He made up for it in a big way on that final catch to put his team in position to kick the game-winning field goal.
**** I don’t like Bruce Arians as the Tampa Bay head coach. Crazy, I know. Between the lack of discipline on almost every level and questionable in-game decisions, it wouldn’t shock me to see Tom Brady return to Tampa Bay next season. But with a new head coach.
***** I like the thought of Bill Belichick swinging for a grand slam this offseason. If you’re a Patriots fan and you watched that Bills-Chiefs game on Sunday, what was your immediate thought after the game? The Patriots aren’t anywhere near the level of those two teams. And it’s not just on Mac Jones either. There are clear massive talent gaps across both sides of the ball. I like the idea of Belichick swinging deals for big name receivers like Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, or Michael Thomas this offseason. New England needs elite talent in several key areas or they won’t be competing for a Super Bowl anytime soon.
****** I don’t like the idea of trading Aaron Rodgers for two or three first-round picks. If I’m Green Bay, I’d much rather trade Rodgers for young elite NFL talent across the field. Unless you can trade Rodgers for multiple 1’s in the upcoming draft, I don’t see how it improves your team in the here and now. With or without Rodgers, the Packers shouldn’t be looking at a complete rebuild.
******* I like Jerry Jones finding a way to hire Sean Payton as the Cowboys head coach. Crazy? Maybe. The reporting out of New Orleans suggests that Sean Payton’s future as the Saints head coach is up in the air. Payton has long been rumored to be a candidate for a broadcasting gig if/when he elects to leave coaching. Could Jones pursuit Payton to come to Dallas to work with Dak Prescott? At the very least, it’s an intriguing opportunity and thought.
******** I don’t like Matt LaFleur boosting up the home crowd; specifically on key defensive third-down situations. Sure, it’s fun. And by no means am I trying to downplay having fun as an NFL head coach. But how about we check in with the defensive play calling on third downs or sit down and confer with your Special Teams coach. Would it hurt to spend less time cheerleading the crowd and more time working with your coaching staff and players? Just a thought.
********* I like what Joe Burrow said after Saturday’s win over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans: "I’m tired of the underdog narrative, we’re a really good team. We’re here to make noise.”
********** I don’t like the narrative that overtime rules decide who wins and who loses in the NFL postseason. Patrick Mahomes didn’t get the opportunity to touch the ball in overtime just a few short seasons ago. Should the rules change? Maybe. But as Josh Allen said after the game: "The rules are what they are, and I can't complain about that. If it was the other way around, we'd be celebrating too."
ASK ME ANYTHING
–Why wouldn’t both Seattle and Green Bay agree on a swap, Rodgers for Wilson?
If I’m the Packers, trading Rodgers to an NFC team is less than ideal. But forget that for a moment. I’m not sure Wilson’s value should be equal to Rodgers, regardless of the age gap. Could a Russell Wilson & DK Metcalf for Aaron Rodgers deal make more sense? Imagine Russell Wilson as a Packer throwing the football to Davante Adams and DK Metcalf. Hm.
–Why not Jimmy Garoppolo to the Panthers?
Sure. What’s the cost though?
Don’t trade first-round picks for Jimmy Garoppolo unless you’re a team ready to win now. If the 49ers move on from him this offseason, a team trading for him should be confident they can make a Super Bowl run with him right away. He’s not a 5-8 year fix at quarterback.
–Could Tom Brady elect to leave Tampa Bay and finish his career with a third team?
Of course. If he’s going to keep playing then I can personally guarantee you that he’s going to want to keep winning. If he doesn’t feel Tampa Bay is his best option, he will definitely be open to a new team.
–What % chance would you put on the Patriots trading for Watson, Rodgers, or Wilson?
I can probably list a dozen NFL fanbases that would be thrilled with Mac Jones right now. But not here in New England. I get it, I do. We’ve been spoiled with greatness for the past two decades. Listen, do I believe Belichick wants to win a ring without Tom Brady? Yes. Do I believe that Belichick will be openly willing to take massive risks in order to accomplish that goal? Yes. But I’m not sold he’s confident enough in his team to trade multiple first-rounders for a quarterback like the three you listed. As we’ve always said with Belichick and the Patriots: if the deal’s right and is what’s best for the football team, they’ll make it happen.
–Any bold takes for the conference championship games this weekend?
Joe Burrow throws four touchdowns against Kansas City’s defense. But similarly to Josh Allen, falls just short to Patrick Mahomes.
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